Repsol Honda’s Dani Pedrosa wins the Laguna Seca GP, the first victory for Honda and the Spanish rider this season.
And the winner is… Pedrosa! The Repsol Honda rider took a narrow win in the 2009 Red Bull U.S. Grand Prix at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca over Fiat Yamahas Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo.
At the start of the 32-lap race, the young Spaniard managed to get the holeshot despite starting from the second row, followed by Marlboro Ducati’s Casey Stoner, Rossi, Pedrosa’s Honda teammate Andrea Dovizioso and Lorenzo. American riders Nick Hayden and Colin Edwards weren’t far behind in the sixth and seventh slots.
As the riders funneled into the Corkscrew, Rossi would dive-bomb inside of Stoner to take over second place. However, a few laps later Stoner retaliated with an inside pass going into the ultra-fast Turn 1. Behind him, the racing action got dicey, as Dovizioso hit the front brakes too hard coming into Turn 5 and crashed his Respol Honda on Lap 6. Luckily, Dovi was unhurt. One lap later, Sete Gibernau crashed his satellite Ducati in Turn 11 with a little too much front brake.
Up front, Pedrosa continued to creep away from the field with a string of fast laps in the 1:22-range. Rossi would retake second position over Stoner and made the pass stick as the Marlboro Ducati rider’s pace began to lag. On Lap 11, Monster Yamaha Tech 3’s James Toseland got black flagged for allegedly jumping the start, thereby ending his race.
By midpoint , Pedrosa would be the first rider to break into the 1:21s, with the young Spaniard carrying a three-second gap over Rossi. As Stoner’s pace slowed, Lorenzo was able to move into the third-position. Meanwhile, American rider Nicky Hayden had muscled up to fifth, 11 seconds behind the leader.
Fiat Yamaha’s Valentino Rossi made a charge on Pedrosa on the final lap, but finished three-hundredths behind.
With two-thirds of the race completed, Lorenzo was the second racer to break into the 1:21 range, as the injured rider tried to track down his teammate. With five laps to go, Gorgeous Jorge was within striking distance of Rossi and dove underneath the Italian in a daring move into Turn 11, but the 22-year-old ran wide on the exit, handing the position back to Rossi. The daring move killed the Spaniard’s drive onto the front straightaway and Rossi immediately opened-up a one second gap. The next lap Rossi immediately upped his pace and also dropped into the 21s, ending Lorenzo’s chances of catching up.
By the final lap, Pedrosa was within Rossi’s clutches. The Championship Points leader attempted to make an inside pass on the last turn but was simply too far away to make it happen. The two would motor down the straightaway with Pedrosa winning by three-hundredths of a second.
“I was able to make up time at the end,” Rossi said after the race. “I made some changes after the morning on the front end and they didn’t work so well. Once the fuel was able to come down and the tires to slide some I was much better and I was able to push and catch Dani. I was very close at the end in the last corner but a pass was not possible, too dangerous.”
Lorenzo would secure the final podium position, which is astounding considering his recent injury. Fourth would go to Stoner some 10-seconds back of the winner, with Hayden crossing the line another 10 seconds behind him in fifth, making the home-race a season-best for the American.
“It’s hard for me to say that I’m happy with fifth place being a two-time winner here, but honestly I’m pretty happy,” said the Kentucky Kid with his trademark million-dollar smile. “In the race I was able to get a decent start, but I really wish I could have got by Toni (Elias) earlier and try to get in that front group. I think I could have kept them in sight a little bit. They weren’t a lot faster than me. But, again, by far my best qualifying and my best race. I’m happy and I feel like we’re really slowly making some progress. We’ve come a long way with the guys on some settings and the electronics and I really hope we can keep it going.”
Edwards would collect a seventh place finish, behind San Carlo Honda Gresini’s Toni Elias. Rizla Suzuki’s Chris Vermeulen finished eighth.
Red Bull U.S. Grand Prix MotoGP Race Results:
1. Dani Pedrosa (Honda) 44:01.580
2. Valentino Rossi (Yamaha) +0.344
3. Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha) +1.926
4. Casey Stoner (Ducati) +12.432
5. Nick Hayden (Ducati) +21.663
6. Toni Elias (Honda) +22.041
7. Colin Edwards (Yamaha) +30.201
8. Chris Vermeulen (Suzuki) +32.857
9. Randy De Puniet (Honda) +40.325
10. Marco Melandri (Kawasaki) +48.028
11. Alex De Angelis (Honda) +48.810
12. Niccolo Canepa (Ducati) +78.531
DNF. Andrea Dovizioso (Honda)
DNF. Sete Gibernau (Ducati)
DNF. Loris Capirossi (Suzuki)
DNF. Gabor Talmacsi (Honda)
Excluded. James Toseland (Yamaha)
Other Post-Race Laguna Seca Rider Quotes
Dani Pedrosa – Repsol Honda – 1st
“This is a fantastic win for us and it’s a great feeling after such a long time without a victory. The start to the season has been really difficult and actually it’s been tough since Sachsenring last year because I’ve had a lot of injuries and I haven’t been able to ride at 100 per cent for a long time, or train properly. But my team and Honda never gave up and I’d like to thank everyone who’s been working really hard to help me get back to this position. I’d also like to thank the doctors who have treated me because there have been quite a few of them! I got a good start, I was able to get into a good rhythm straight away and my pace was a little better than in practice. Perhaps my only mistake here was to slow down too much on the last lap because I didn’t realize how close Valentino was. Anyway, it was a great race, a great day and it’s a great feeling. Now I just want to focus on each race and get the best results possible. There’s a long way to go in the championship but there’s also a big gap to the leaders so I’m just going to take it one race at a time.”
Valentino Rossi – Fiat Yamaha – 2nd
“The first half of the race was quite difficult because we weren’t at 100% today. I didn’t expect Dani to be so fast but he was very strong and there wasn’t much I could do to go with him! The last ten laps were very exciting because Lorenzo was pushing me so hard that I had to really make another step and then Dani slowed down and suddenly he was right in front of me! I thought there was a chance to pass on the final corner but unfortunately I was just too far off and it was too much of a risk. Second is good today because we were not in perfect shape here, we missed something in the setting and this is always a hard track anyway, so we have to be happy with these twenty points. We have extended the championship lead so it’s a good result for us and we have shown that we are still strong this year even when things are not perfect. This consistency is the most important thing for the championship. Now I am happy that we have some time to rest because these have been a hard two weeks and the next two races are very important because we are all so close!”
Jorge Lorenzo – Fiat Yamaha – 3rd
“I always try to do my best and I think that is what I have done today, considering my physical condition. I am really proud and I think that this was one of my best races. My foot was okay but I had a lot of pain in my right shoulder, which meant I wasn’t strong in my right hand and I had to over-compensate with my left; I am really tired now! I want to thank the Clinica Mobile because they made it possible for me to finish the race. After a while I started to forget about the pain a bit and I just wanted to do my best and I knew that it was possible to pass Valentino. Unfortunately I hit some bumps when I braked deep and my rear tire moved a lot and I was lucky not to crash – maybe without this mistake, if I had been able to pass him, it would have been possible to win but anyway third is good in the circumstances and we have taken good points. Now we have some time to recover; I am fit and strong so I hope that by Sachsenring I will be back to my best.”
Casey Stoner – Ducati MotoGP Team – 4th
“It has been a weekend to forget. I can’t be happy with fourth place even if it has limited the damage to my championship chances. Today I didn’t feel as bad at the end of the race as I have done in the last two but I’m still not right. I found it really difficult to keep my concentration over the last few laps and I was in a bit of a daze by the end. My left arm was feeling really tired by the end because of the fact there are so many left-handers here and my left wrist still doesn’t have the full range of movement after my operation in the winter. I’m really disappointed because without all of these problems we could have done so much better. I want to thank the team for giving me a great bike and also Doctor Claudio Macchiagodena and our physiotherapist Freddie (Dente) for all their help. Now we’ll focus on trying to find out the root of the problem because racing in this condition is not much fun.”
Nicky Hayden – Ducati MotoGP Team – 5th
“I have won here twice and to say that fifth place feels just as good might sound strange but man, so much hard work has gone into getting us to this point and I want to savor this feeling. To be racing at home, to score a solid result and to have had fun out there is nice. I just want to say a huge ‘thank you’ to my whole team, to Ducati and to everybody who has continued to believe in me during some difficult times this season. We have made progress over the last two races, we have kept the faith and it has paid off with this fifth place. Hopefully we can keep it going and score even better results as the season progresses.”
Toni Elias – San Carlo Honda Gresini: – 6th
“It is not a bad result and we couldn’t have done much more than that because my race pace was exactly the same as in practice. I was able to go quicker for a lap or two in practice but generally we knew this was what we would be capable of today in terms of my own performance. To be honest I was hoping the front guys would be a little slower than that and allow us to challenge them but the pace was very quick so compliments to them. In general this weekend has been much better than previous races and so was the result, but we always want more.”
Colin Edwards – Monster Yamaha Tech 3 – 7th
“It’s great to score my 100th points finish in front of my home fans and doing it for Monster, Yamaha and Tech 3 who have given me great support. But I expect more than finishing seventh. I’m pretty tired now and it was a really physical race because I couldn’t get the bike to turn. Each time I threw it on its side it just went straight out to the kerb. I was using a lot of effort to get the bike to turn and it felt like the front forks were sitting between my legs. When I braked the front didn’t feel like it was coming back up. It felt like the front was buried in the ground and just pushed me out to the edge of the track. I ride over the front a lot but today it felt like I was crawling all over it, almost like I was sitting on top of the tank. It wasn’t super special and we’ve got to go back to the drawing board I think for Germany. My pace was consistent and I was doing between 22.9 or 23.1 the whole race, but that just wasn’t fast enough.”
Chris Vermeulen – Rizla Suzuki – 8th
“It was a difficult race and we didn’t end up where we wanted to be. I got quite a good start but then got boxed in on turn one and lost a few positions. I was battling with Loris and Colin and got caught up with them and came out of it the worse, and ended up in about 14th place. We also struggled a bit with tire performance today and didn’t get the ultimate performance out of the bike. From about lap 15 and right to the end my times were quite quick and when everybody’s tire dropped down – including mine – it was a lot easier to ride the bike. We just didn’t really have the performance with the new tires and it’s something that has affected us before this year and is certainly something we will have to look at. The plus is that I stayed upright all day today – which was good – and although we didn’t have the best package out there we still managed to score some decent points and now we need to move forward in Germany.”
Randy De Puniet – LCR Honda – 9th
“I am quite satisfied as it was hard to expect a better result starting from the fourth row on this “up-and-down” track. I struggled with grip problems since Friday and we tried to adjust our issues but at the end the bike was not at 100%. My start was not brilliant and found some traffic in the first laps but after that my rhythm was good enough to pass a few riders. We decided to go for a softer rear tire which was a good choice for the beginning of the race but grip from the rear tire dropped at ten laps to go. This is another productive result for me and the Team as I am holding the 9th place in the championship”
Alex De Angelis – San Carlo Honda Gresini – 11th
“We made some changes to the bike for today but with the conditions being so much cooler for the warm-up this morning than they were for the race in the afternoon, we hadn’t really tested them. I was really struggling over the first few laps and the bike was moving around a lot but the problem eased in the second half of the race and I was able to push harder. I honestly thought I could run with Vermeulen today and that would have been a battle for eighth place so it’s a shame we suffered this setback. Anyway, at least we picked up a few points.”
Niccolò Canepa – Pramac Racing – 12th
“Hard race for us today. In the first laps I couldn’t push more because I didn’t have enough grip with the front part of the bike, in addition I saw other riders fall in front of me and I thought the track wasn’t in the best condition in that moment. Once the front tire was warmer it was too late because I found my self practically alone. I maintained yesterday’s afternoon rhythm, but it wasn’t enough to reach the riders in front of me. We will try to do better in two weeks at the Sachsenring.”
James Toseland – Monster Yamaha Tech 3 – DNF
“There’s not much I can say really other than it was a tough weekend. I feel like the jump start was pretty harsh. I knew it was close but I didn’t think I’d jumped the start and that early in a 32-lap race I’m not looking at my pitboard. I was just concentrating on catching the guy in front and the first thing I realized that I’d been penalized was when I saw the black flag and my number. Obviously if I’d known I’d jumped the start then I would have come in but I’ve watched the TV replay and you can’t see anything. I didn’t gain any places either so in my opinion it’s pretty harsh. It’s a setback but I’ve just got to get on with it and bounce back in Germany.”
Loris Capirossi – Rizla Suzuki – DNF
“I am really upset about today, because we have worked so hard this weekend to find the best solution and we thought we would be ok with the setting today. I started quite well and was really aggressive in the first couple of laps, but in turn six I lost the front on the second lap and then on the next lap I did the same in the same place, but this time I crashed. I am really sorry for the whole team because they have worked so hard this week. The truth is this has been a terrible weekend for me as we never really found a good solution. Fortunately we have another nine races in front of us and we will keep working really hard to get some good results.”
Andrea Dovizioso – Repsol Honda – DNF
“We were in good shape, I’d got into a fast rhythm and I’m sure we could have had good result today, so I’m very disappointed. Unfortunately I made a mistake and I have spoiled this opportunity. During the first laps, I was behind Valentino, I wanted to overtake him and I was very close at the end of the straight. It’s a blind point and I was so close that I didn’t see the plastic poles that separate the track from the pit lane. I hit a few of them and in the impact the clutch lever bent, and from that moment on I couldn’t control the engine braking. It was my mistake as my line was too far to the left but after that it was tough to ride and change gear properly. Nevertheless, I tried to stay up with the leaders. Then I lost the front and crashed after having had a couple of warnings. I’m really disappointed because we are getting closer to front-running pace at every race and here we could have done well. Still, I believe in myself, in the machine and in my team, and I really hope to get a good result soon.”
Gabor Talmacsi – Scot Honda – DNF
“I had a very good feeling with the bike, and a good start. Then suddenly, when I was 15th, I lost the front. I cannot say why. I’m fine, but it is really a pity because I was in a condition to get a good result. I stay confident for the next race.”